It may come as a surprise to find the freshest local shellfish in town is being served at an Elm Street bar called Three Sheets, at the original site of the neighborhood fixture, Rudy’s.
Rick Seiden and Ed Turschmann of Milford have been partners in Bear Neck Shellfish for 20 years, fishing for oysters and farming clams in Milford, Branford and Guilford. Rick, Ed, and a third friend, Andrew Neville of Charleston, SC, decided to tackle a new business venture, looking to launch a restaurant and bar.
Seiden spoke for the three, “We saw that one of the bars we always went to from early on was available, and gave us the chance to expand the menu.” The bar was called Rudy’s for 81 years, then the Elm Bar for nearly three years. They took it over in December of 2013. Since opening Three Sheets, the two haven’t been back on the water. But fortunately for diners, Bear Neck has a great employee who still fishes for them, providing delectable clams.
“We made changes,” Seiden says, “most of them aren’t readily visible to you. We kept it recognizable as the New Haven fixture it is. The biggest changes we made: we increased from eight draft beer lines to 19, serve a full menu, upgraded the sound system and expanded the live music to a lot more regularity and a lot more genres. All sorts of music.”
How does a fisherman end up directing the menu at a restaurant? “I’m not a chef but I am a home foodie,” Seiden says. “I travel based on food destinations and try things. We try to bring in flavors that I have tried in other places but put a different twist on them. The menu is huge part of why we’re here. We source the beef we use from Four Mile River Farm in Old Lyme. We source our breads from Whole G in New Haven. As local produce becomes more readily available we’ll change over to what’s available when it’s available.”
Best of all, “We can offer shellfish right off our boat. That’s something no one else in New Haven does.” Seiden and Turschmann have connections in the right places. What their friends catch makes guest appearances on the menu as specials.
Rick hasn’t been on his boat since they opened Three Sheets, and it has been quite an adjustment for the two fishermen. The restaurant’s hours are completely opposite for a fisherman. “It’s been a life change. I go home now when I used to wake up,” Seiden says. “It’s fun putting life back in this place again. In the beginning we had a lot to figure out. We kept most of the same staff.”
Rick works with his young chef Randy Archambeault on the dishes. The two are pretty resourceful. Together they developed one of the customers’ favorites: Pickled fries. “We have a lot of pickle juice around and we hand cut our own fries,” Seiden says. “One day we decided to soak the fries in pickle brine. We kept experimenting with how long they needed to soak to have the right flavor. If you like salt and vinegar potato chips, it’s a similar flavor but its a French fry.” Additionally, “We make all our own sauces in house. We smoke tomatoes for smoked ketchup, the stuffed clams are made with jalapeno corn bread stuffing.”
And if you’re not an animal-protein kind of diner, Rick says, “I wanted to offer a vegetarian option that mirrored [every] meat option. We’re getting there.” For instance, the banh mi is either pork belly or tofu, the chili can be with or without meat.
Restaurant Website: http://threesheetsnh.com/
• The Detes: 372 Elm St., New Haven. 475-202-6909. Open seven days: Monday through Thursday 3 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sat. 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sun 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. (they serve brunch).
• Price Range: Starters $4-10; sandwiches $7-12; salad, soups and chilis $6-9.
• Style of Food: Gastrodive
• Music: Several nights a week
• Favorite dishes: Four-Mile burger, pickled fries, fried pickles, steamed clams, banh mi.
• Drinks: full bar
• Vegetarian/gluten free: yes
• Events and catering: yes
• Outdoor dining: yes